Estimated cost: $1.16 per 6 buns, $0.19 per bun
Growing up, I loved going to the Filipino market just to buy fresh steamed buns. My favorite ones were the siopao asado buns, which are white, fluffy buns filled with a sweet pork filling. Over the past few days, I’ve been reminiscing about siopao asado, but didn’t have the ingredients to create the filling. So, in a pinch, I decided to make these adorable, steamed buns without filling. I will revisit developing a siopao asado recipe sometime soon—I promise!
These vegan chicken-shaped buns are ridiculously fluffy, soft, shiny, and sooooo cute. If you’re a regular of my blog, you may know I like to shape foods into different animals. Since it’s currently Spring, I thought it would be fun to make little Spring chickens. They’re lots of fun to make with other people, especially kids! And don’t worry, it’s actually really simple to make steamed buns at home. There’s only a few ingredients needed and you’ll just need a steaming basket + pot/pan that will fit it.
When developing this recipe, I learned that the siopao is influenced by Chinese cuisine, specifically their char siu bao (siu bao -> siopao!?!? so cool!), which are Chinese BBQ pork buns. In China, baos are stuffed buns, while mantou buns do not have a filling. For my recipe, I made siopao dough without filling, meaning that this recipe is very similar to mantou. Learning all of this was super cool to me, I really love hearing about cultural food connections.
Now, let’s get to cooking!
Making steamed buns from scratch is super simple and only requires a few ingredients!
The dough can all be mixed into one bowl, which is the best since I hate doing dishes!
First, you whisk together warmed milk, yeast, sugar, and oil until the yeast is dissolved. Then, dump in cake flour, all-purpose flour, and salt. Mix the ingredients until it forms a shaggy dough, then knead by hand or mixer until very smooth and elastic.
If you want to make plain buns, you can go ahead and divide and shape the dough into 6 balls, let the dough rest, then steam. However, if you want to make them chicken-shaped like these lil guys, have some food coloring on hand!
Shaping the dough
You only need a little dough for the red and orange details. Since the overall dough weighed about 443g, remove ~15g dough and knead in red food coloring. Next, remove ~3g dough and knead in orange food coloring. Lastly, remove ~36g white dough for the chickens’ wings.
Since I wanted to make 6 buns, I divided the weight of the remaining white dough by 6, which was ~65g. Once I had all my doughs separated out, I lightly covered them in plastic wrap to avoid them from drying out while I shaped each chicken.
To shape each bun into a ball, cup it with your palm over your work surface and move it in a circular motion until the top was smooth and the bottom had pinched ends. Then, place it onto its own cut square piece of parchment paper.
For all of the details, use water to act as your glue to stick the dough together. For each wing, shape ~3g dough into an oval and stick it onto each side of the chicken. For the beak, shape a very small amount of orange dough into a circle and placed it in the middle of the head. Then, shape three red balls, pinch the ends together, and stick it on top of the head. Lastly, shape a small amount of red dough into a teardrop shape and glue it right under the beak.
Proof the dough, steam, and eat!
After shaping the chicken buns, lightly cover them with plastic wrap and let them rest for about 60 minutes. They won’t really rise much, but you’ll want them to be around 50% of their original size.
Once they’re ready, place the buns about 2-3 inches apart into a steaming basket on top of a pan/pot with cold water. Make sure there is about 2″ of space between the bottom of the basket and the water. Cover the basket with the lid, then turn the burner to medium-low heat and steam for about 20 minutes. I know it’s tempting, but don’t peek inside or the buns will wrinkle and look dimpled. After the 20 minute mark, keep the lid on for about 2 minutes before removing.
After you remove the buns, you can add the final details. Use edible markers to draw on the eyes and blush… then they’re all done and ready to eat!
How to store and reheat the buns
You can store these cute steamed buns in an airtight container at room temperature for about 3 days. To reheat the steamed buns, place them on a plate and lightly cover them with a damp paper towel. Microwave for about 15-20 seconds and the buns should be perfectly soft again!
Chicken-Shaped Steamed Buns (vegan)
- steamer basket + pot
- 140 g warmed milk ($0.29)
- 40 g granulated sugar ($0.08)
- 3 g yeast ($0.01)
- 10 g neutral cooking oil ($0.03)
- 125 g cake flour ($0.44)
- 125 g all-purpose flour ($0.30)
- pinch of salt ($0.01)
- food coloring of choice, I used red and orange
For facial details:
Make the dough:
- Whisk together warmed milk, sugar, and yeast.
- Add rest of ingredients (besides food coloring), mixing with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until you get a shaggy dough. Place the dough onto a work surface and knead (can also use hand mixer with dough hook attachment) until you get a very smooth elastic ball of dough.
Divide and color the doughs:
- You can always divide the dough into 6 equal parts and shape them into balls, but if you want to recreate these chicken buns, read on! Weigh out about 15g dough and knead in red food coloring. This will be for the comb and wattles!
- Weigh out about 3g dough and knead in the orange food coloring. This will be for the beaks.
- Weigh out about 36g dough for the wings.
- Since I wanted to make 6 buns, I divided the remaining dough by 6, which was ~65g.
- Once you have all the doughs separated out, lightly cover them in plastic to stop them from drying out.
Shaping the chicken buns:
- For the body of the chicken, shape the 65g dough into balls by cupping it with the palm of your hand over your work surface, moving it in a circular motion until the top is smooth and the bottom is pinched. Place it on top of a cut ~3×3 inch square piece of parchment paper.
- For the details, you will be using water as glue to attach the doughs together.Take 3g of the other divided white dough and shape it into a wing. Attach it to the side of the chicken. Repeat for the other side.
- For the beak, take a small amount of orange dough, shape it into a ball, and stick it onto the middle of the chicken.
- For the comb (top of chicken's head), shape 3 red balls, place them side by side, and pinch the ends together. Attach it to the top of the head.
- For the wattle, take a small amount of red dough and shape it into a teardrop. Attach it right under the beak.
Proof the buns:
- Proof the buns under plastic wrap for about 60 minutes, or until the buns have increased by 50% their original size.
Steam the buns:
- Place buns into steaming basket (at least 2-3 inches apart), cover, and put over a pot of cold water. Make sure there is about 2 inches of space between the bottom of the basket and the water.
- Turn the heat to medium-low and steam for about 20 minutes. Try to not peek inside or the buns may wrinkle and become dimpled!
- After 20 minutes, turn off the heat and leave the steaming basket lid on for 1-2 minutes to not shock the buns with cold air. Then, remove the lid and the buns.
Decorate the buns:
- Use edible food markers to add the blush and eyes.